One year ago, Washington voters passed Initiative 502, legalizing recreational marijuana.
Now, with marijuana-retail outlets about to open for business, the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) has assembled an exhibit at its Seattle Design Center gallery in Georgetown, the theme of which might best be summed up: “Wowie, zowie — what have we wrought?”
“Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe: Flameworking on the Brink of Legalization” is a goofily extravagant show in which handcrafted borosilicate glass pipes assume the most unlikely shapes: a rail engine, a giraffe, a rubber ducky and a surprising amount of weaponry (both contemporary and futuristic).
One entry, Ryan “Buck” Harris and Darby Holm’s “The Lemur,” takes the form of a lemur skeleton perched in a bamboo thicket rising from a bed of large gray stones, all of them — skeleton, bamboo canes and stones alike — serviceable as pipes.
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The whole exquisitely crafted business rises 8 feet from its pedestal. The lemur skeleton, reportedly, can be detached from its bamboo cane and slipped over your forearm, for more portable smoking use.
The exhibit’s title alludes to Magritte’s iconic painting “The Treachery of Images,” in which his meticulous depiction of a pipe is accompanied by the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”) — a truthful statement, the artist argued, because after all it was impossible to put anything in it.
The irony at CoCA is that, while almost all the entries in the show could not look less like pipes, most of them are. Whether tiny or large, opulent or cartoonish, innocent or X-rated, these artworks will happily accommodate your smoking needs.
Most of the pieces delight in their own countercultural-satirical vibe, but one installation by Matt Eskuche, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” sounds a cautionary note.
It consists of dozens of bottles, cans, soda cups and straws, etc., in red and white powder-coated and flameworked borosilicate glass, some standing, some knocked sideways, looking a little like a junk-culture chess game that someone strode through, kicking pieces right and left. All, of course, are pipes.
While at Seattle Design Center, don’t miss Seward Park Clay Studio’s terrific show of figurative ceramic sculptures, “Diversiform.” Ceramic artists Tip Toland, Akio Takamori and Doug Jeck invited past and present students and colleagues to contribute pieces to the exhibit.
Jacob Foran, Meg Murch, Pat Haase and Trevor Foster deliver fine, unsettling work that’s far removed, in its form and colors, from any expectations of what ceramic art can be. “Diversiform” runs through Dec. 20.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org